GAA Football

McErlain's future in doubt over possible backroom cuts

Derry manager Damian McErlain on the line against Laois during the All Ireland Senior Football Championship round 2 qualifier at Owenbeg on Saturday. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin.

THE future of Derry manager Damian McErlain is unclear amid the expectation that he will have to reduce the size of his backroom team if he stays in place.

The Oak Leafers' campaign was brought to a close on Saturday with a disappointing four-point defeat at home to Laois.

It ended a year that saw them comfortably escape the clutches of Division Four with a 100 per cent record before they gave Tyrone a fright in the Ulster SFC preliminary round.

With a win over Wexford to follow, there was optimism that a last 12 place was an achievable target, but a poor second half at the weekend saw a more physically equipped Laois side end their hopes.

McErlain's record of one championship win in two years as manager is something of an unfair reflection, given that three of their five games were against Division One opposition.

Derry's management team was bolstered at the start of the season with the introduction of former Tyrone player Ciaran Meenagh, who has made a great impression on the players.

Already among his backroom that continued into 2019 were coaches Killian Conlan and Gavin McGeehan, while former Down forward Conor Laverty was also enlisted ahead of this year's championship.

Former long-serving number one Barry Gillis coaches the goalkeepers, while Anthony Campbell, Philip Kerr and liaison officer Hugh McGrath complete the coaching staff.

Armagh native John McMahon is the county's strength and conditioning coach across all levels, while Ben McGuckin does their analysis work. There is also a four-person medical team that includes a doctor, a masseuse and two physios.

But The Irish News understands that the county board, which is currently facing financial difficulties, is planning to cut back on the depth of McErlain's support staff.

That's likely to create an issue for the Derry boss, who is believed to be keen on staying but whose loyalty runs deep with the men that have been alongside him since he took on the Oak Leaf minor job in 2015.

McErlain has just finished the second year of an agreed three-year term.

The county board will review all their managerial teams at the end of the season as per usual.

Doubt also exist over the futures of both senior hurling manager John McEvoy and minor football manager Paddy Campbell after the end of their campaigns.

Derry U20s, under Mickey Donnelly, begin their summer against Armagh on Friday night.

A spokesperson for Derry county board said: “Derry GAA would seriously question the reliability of this suggestion.”

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